The Volunteer Paradox

2014-12-21 18.07.43-3

Last year I made teddy bears for an girls orphanage in Mexico.

I have a confession. I’m bad about volunteering. It’s something I think is really important and something I think should be done. But I’m horrible at it.

Here’s a few reasons why:

  1. I guard my time ferociously. Free time is a scarce commodity and I hate to give it up. I especially hate committing to giving it up on a regular basis.
  2. My schedule is a mess. Right now, due to a bought of work travel, I never know when I’m going to be home. I can’t commit anything more than a few days in advance and even then, it’s subject to change. That drives the A-type planner in me nuts. But even when I’m not traveling, it always seems like I’m too busy.
  3. I don’t want to do it alone. I want to have someone with me. The introvert inside me cringes at the thought of walking in to a group of strangers and trying to figure out what to talk about, if I should talk at all, for a couple of hours. But if one schedule is hard to pull together, imagine two.
  4. And here’s the kicker: It’s overwhelming. There are so many tragedies. There are so many good causes. There are so many injustices in the world that I don’t know where to begin. So I don’t. I feel the anxiety of having to choose and just shut down and choose nothing.

Do any of those sound familiar to you?

I thought they might. But here’s the thing, if every one says I’m too busy or too overwhelmed and puts their heads down and walks away, nothing will change. Those injustices will continue to go on, and now they’re on our heads because we could’ve done something to help and we didn’t.

Matthew 25:34-40 says,  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

The next verses detail what happens when we don’t look after “the least of these,” and believe me when I tell you it’s not pretty. So if you need any other reason to look beyond yourself into the hurting world around you, let it be that.

This little one wouldnt let go of my legs when it was time to leave.

This little one wouldnt let go of my legs when it was time to leave.

So here are some things you and I can do to combat those fears and problems:

  1. Loosen your grip a little. Trust me, I really understand not wanting to give up your free time, but when you weight an hour or two out of your week against helping children find safe homes and food or helping abused women regain their confidence and independence or helping make world a better place for just one person, in any way… well, I think I know what will tip the scales.
  2. Find something you can do flexibly or at home. Right now, it really is impossible to nail me down on a date. I couldn’t even schedule a needed doctor’s visit it was that bad. So I’ve gotten involved/created two organizations that I can contribute to wherever I’m at. The first is Sole Hope, I wrote an article on it a few months back. They’re doing some truly incredible things. The second is a sister organization growing up alongside Safe Families for Children, called Covered in Love. I am creating handmade blankets for the young boys and girls who are entering temporary homes to give them something to hold on to while everything changes around them. You can find other opportunities like this, or you can steal mine!
  3. Find a friend or make one. Even if you have to plan it a month in advance, schedule an afternoon or evening with a friend to do something to help out. If there’s absolutely no way you can do that then… well… you and me, we’ll just have to get over it. The cool thing is, when you’re volunteering, you have common cause. And that’s a pretty goo place to start a friendship.
  4. Close your eyes and point. Not really, but to some extent, it’s true. Here’s the thing, you can’t fight every cause. You can’t win every battle. So you’ve just got to pick one. That doesn’t mean that you have to stick to it for the rest of your life, but you’re going to cover a lot more ground fighting on one front than you are on fifty.

For me, I’m doing what I can to help children have a better, safer, happier life in my own community and in South Africa. What will it be for you?

Do you volunteer? If so, what cause are you taking on? If no, what’s holding you back? 

Megan Gonzalez

By | 2015-11-16T18:46:30+00:00 November 17th, 2015|Encouragement, Faith|15 Comments

About the Author:

I'm a tea-sipping, adventure-seeking, pug-loving kind of girl. I'm crazy for God and want to share his love with awesome girls around the globe.


  1. Charlotte November 18, 2015 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Awww, I love this so much and thank you for posting it. I needed to read this. You’re right–we can come up with all kinds of excuses NOT to participate in something or volunteer our time or convince ourselves that we have to find the BEST CAUSE but sometimes just being present to one makes all the difference. Love your giving spirit and this beautiful reminder 🙂 So sweet that the little child wouldn’t let go of your legs. LOVE!

  2. Susannah November 18, 2015 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    This is super convicting to me! I give the same excuses for why I don’t volunteer even though, like you, I think it’s so important. That needs to change in my life!

  3. Branson November 17, 2015 at 7:20 pm - Reply

    I can definitely relate to this! We do volunteer youth ministry, but I feel like I need to be doing some sort of community service as well. It is always on my list, but hard to put into motion! Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Diana Elle November 17, 2015 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    I understand that it can be tough, Thanks for sharing your tips on to combating those fears and problems:

  5. Emma @ The Happy Journal November 17, 2015 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing Megan! I definitely needed to be practical about what I could manage when I was part of the exec for the Christian Union last year! Thank you for reminding us that our strength comes from Jesus!

  6. Elise November 17, 2015 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    Hey my friend! Thank you for posting about this! Matthew and I both really treasure our free time, but we eventually came to the same conclusion about it that you did: if we don’t volunteer, who will? This is why we volunteer with the elementary Sunday School and Wednesday youth group. We think it is important to give our time willingly to love the children as Jesus did.

    Thank you again for writing about this!

  7. Bethany November 17, 2015 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    Oh my goodness…I love the pictures here so much and your story behind the bears! Guarding our time is so important…thank you for this!

  8. Chrissy November 17, 2015 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    Committing to something during your spare time is always difficult – I totally understand. Since working more hours my volunteering has been put a bit on the back burner, but when I was a stay at home mom, I volunteered a lot. I helped at school activities, such as book fair, or fun fair etc, I was a member of a no-for-profit organisation to help people in need called neighbors-for-neighbors and did things like food and book drives and so much more. I miss being able to help others and hope to be able to do that again next year. Great post and great tips!

  9. Rae November 17, 2015 at 11:17 am - Reply

    The only volunteering I do right now is help my mother with foster kittens. However, once I have a family I am certain I will become much more active in my volunteering efforts. My mom (and to a lesser extent, my dad) donated a lot of time to my childhood endeavors, including classroom volunteer, coach (softball in second and third grade, swimming from the age of 8 into my teens), Girl Scouts and 4-H leader.

    As my mom says “If I don’t do it, maybe no one will, and it’s the (cats, horses or kids) who suffer,” and “Someone volunteered so I could do something when I was a kid, someone volunteered so you could do something as a kid.”

    I don’t think I could walk into an orphanage and walk out without crying. But you did leave a little bit of your heart into each of those cute bears, and for one day at least, those girls knew what it was like to be loved and treasured. <3

  10. Samantha November 17, 2015 at 10:56 am - Reply

    This is so important! I make a point of volunteering whenever I travel abroad (Thailand and Ghana) but it’s not something I often think about doing close to home. I’m also very introverted and groups feel overwhelming.

  11. Meagan @ All the Joys November 17, 2015 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Volunteering is something that every single person can do. And some things you don’t even have to leave your home or socialize with other people – there is really something for everyone! Thanks for reminding us!

  12. Crystal @ Dreams, etc. November 17, 2015 at 9:59 am - Reply

    These are great tips! I need to find something that I can do at home. I work at a small, Christian school and things are so hectic during the school year that I’m regularly at work into the evening or on weekends. (I’m not a teacher, but we have a really small staff.) It’s really hard to commit to things because of the different times that I’ll be pulled into work during the school year.

  13. Dana November 17, 2015 at 9:47 am - Reply

    I agree with you that many people don’t realize that there are more ways to volunteer other than actually going somewhere. I love that you made the teddy bears – you made so many children happy!

  14. Karen November 17, 2015 at 9:44 am - Reply

    Aw… love this post. What an excellent and helpful reminder to do more good and volunteer. I’m like you – I need to volunteer more. I used to do it more regularly but when my schedule got nuts, I dropped the ball on volunteering. Time to do more. 🙂
    xx, Karen

  15. Erica November 17, 2015 at 9:38 am - Reply

    This is such as encouraging post! I think the “no time” excuse is an easy one for people to fall back on. I think your suggestion of reframing of how you think about it is awesome.

    In the grand scheme of things, what is a couple of hours a week of your time? Think of how much time we waste each week watching TV or playing video games! We make time for things that are important, so why not volunteering? Great post!

Leave A Comment